World Answers Ukrainian Neurologists' Desperate Cry for Help

Alicia Ault

March 10, 2022

As neurologists in war-torn Ukraine plead for assistance, professional societies around the world are taking action.

"There are children in dire need of their antiseizure medications (ASMs) going into status epilepticus," tweeted pediatric neurologist Aris Hadjinicolaou, MD, on March 2. "The Ukrainian League Against Epilepsy is asking the world for help."

Hadjinicolaou posted a photo of a letter from the Ukrainian League requesting help in getting antiseizure medications.

On March 7, the International League Against Epilepsy and the International Bureau for Epilepsy issued a joint statement announcing they were working with nongovernmental organizations to "arrange for the urgent supply of antiseizure medications through humanitarian corridors within the territory of Ukraine."

The two groups also urged "all to respect the neutrality and sanctity of medical personnel and health facilities during this conflict."

That call has been ignored. Major US news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post reported that a maternity hospital in the southern city of Mariupol was bombed by Russian forces on Wednesday.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted video footage that he said showed the hospital, and said, "People, children are under the wreckage! Atrocity!"

Dedication to Patients

Meanwhile, some US neurologists in the Ukraine were in contact with the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), saying that they were staying put, with their patients.

The AAN's NeurologyToday reported that Solomiia Bandrivska, MD, an AAN member who completed her neurology residency in February, had been the only neurologist at her hospital in Kyiv for a week, as the other clinicians on her team were stuck in a bomb shelter.

"I stay with my patients from the beginning, and will stay till the end," Bandrivska told the publication.

The AAN has created a Ukraine Crisis Response Workgroup with nearly a dozen academy leaders to help all neurologists in that country, not just the 34 AAN members there, said Lyell Jones, MD, FAAN, chair of the workgroup, in a statement to Medscape Medical News.

The workgroup is also meeting with colleagues at the World Federation of Neurology and the European Academy of Neurology (EAN) "to determine how best our organizations can help our neurology community affected by the crisis in Ukraine," said Jones.

The aim is to assist those clinicians still in Ukraine and also neurologists in the region and to provide tools — such as medications and medical supplies — to support displaced patients, he said.

"We have been inspired by the commitment and dedication of neurologists around the world in helping our neurology community affected by the crisis in Ukraine, especially those who continue to deliver care to their patients in the midst of the crisis," said Jones, adding that the AAN expected to continue to provide updates on its efforts.

On March 3, the EAN issued a statement that it "condemns the military invasion of Ukraine ordered by the Russian government and the violation of international law."

"Our thoughts are wholeheartedly with the Ukrainian people, but also with Russian scientists and citizens who have the courage to voice their opposition to this unjustified war," the group added.

No Members Barred

The association said that international scientific exchange should not be interrupted, which may be one reason why it has not barred members from Russia or Belarus, unlike the European Society of Cardiology, which stated on March 4 that it has "temporarily suspended the memberships of the Russian Society of Cardiology and the Belarussian Society of Cardiologists in the ESC."

The European Respiratory Society also said it "is currently taking steps to suspend collaborations with Russian and Belarusian societies."

EAN spokesperson Michael Crean told Medscape Medical News that the organization is "not introducing restrictions on members or congress attendees based on nationality or country of residence."

Instead, the EAN is "investigating options to provide support to neurologists in Ukraine," said Crean, adding that it had made all members of the Ukrainian National Society full individual members of EAN, which gives them free access to all EAN services and the annual congress. Ukrainian neurologists who are not already Ukrainian National Society members can apply and get free membership for 1 year, he added.

The organization also will provide 30,000 euros for neurology and medical care in Ukraine, he said.

The German Society for Neurology (DGN) is going even bigger, donating 100,000 euros to a nongovernmental medical aid organization, action medeor e.V. The DGN said it had heard from representatives of the Ukrainian neurological society that medicines were urgently needed.

"We encourage our colleagues from other medical societies to follow this path of concrete monetary help," the DGN said in a statement.

Alicia Ault is a Lutherville, Maryland-based freelance journalist whose work has appeared in publications including JAMA,, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. You can find her on Twitter @aliciaault.

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